King's College was lit up blue on Thursday evening to recognise the dedication of NHS staff and other key workers.Sir Cam/@camdiary

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You can catch up on everything that happened in Cambridge in our live blog for March, here.

Read our coronavirus live blog for May here

So far, in April:

  • Following exam announcements of the 31st, some students, including fourth-year Chemical Engineers and first-year HSPS students, have written to their faculties asking for their decisions regarding exams to be modified.
  • In an interview with Varsity, Pro-Vice Chancellor Graham Virgo said the University is looking into the 5h HSPS exams as well as the Vet Med and Medicine arrangements. He also promised new avenues of support for disabled students and integrated Master’s students.

If you have been affected or have any information about COVID-19 in Cambridge, we’d like to hear from you. Get in touch with our news team at news@varsity.co.uk

Thursday 23rd April 9:03pm 

Senate House and the Old Schools were lit up in blue tonight, to show solidarity with NHS staff.

Wednesday 22nd April 10:25am 

Stephen Hawking’s family have donated his ventilator to the Royal Papworth Hospital.

The Royal Papworth Hospital, which is located on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, is the UK's leading heart and lung hospital.

Lucy Hawking, Stephen’s daughter, said her father had received "brilliant, dedicated and compassionate" care at the hospital. The family returned most of Hawking’s medical equipment back to the NHS but had previously kept items which he had purchased himself.

Dr Mike Davies, Clinical Director for Respiratory Medicine at the hospital, said that the team are "so grateful" to the family for donating the equipment. He added: "the support we are receiving from patients, their families and the local community means a great deal."

Friday 17th April 4:40pm 

After graduating on the 8th April, Cambridge’s 265 recent medicine graduates have been able to seek early registration with the General Medical Council and will soon enter the NHS workforce.

Varsity spoke to three of the new doctors. Read in full here.

Friday 10th April - 4:09pm 

'Cambridge Police' has been trending on Twitter since this morning, after an official Cambridge Police twitter account wrote, in a now deleted tweet, that it was "Good to see" that "non essential aisles were empty" in a local Tesco. 

Many on the social media website have criticised the tweet, as police have not been given the authority to judge what is essential and non-essential. Stephen Bush, Political Editor of the New Statesman, even tweeted that this was an example of the police accountability afforded by social media. 

Cambridge Police have since clarified that the tweet was sent "with good intentions by an over exuberant officer" and that in line with national guidance they are not checking what people are buying. 

Wednesday 8th April - 3:53pm 

A new facility based at Cambridge University Biomedical Campus aims to conduct 30,000 coronavirus tests a day.

The new coronavirus testing laboratory will be based at the University’s Anne McLaren laboratory, and is the result of the University's collaboration with AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.

The Biomedical Campus is situated by Addenbrooke’s Hospital. 

Stephen Toope told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme that the facility will be "fully up and running" by May, which will "go a long way towards meeting the Government's target of 100,000 [tests] a day."

The facility will also seek to contribute to addressing current supply shortages by developing alternative chemical reagents for test kits.

This follows the announcement last week of plans to construct  a temporary 120-bed facility at Addenbrooke’s, in case of a potential surge of patients with Covid-19.

3:56pm The University Library have launched a 'Collecting Covid-19' scheme to build a "collaborative history of the coronavirus outbreak" for future researchers.

They are particularly looking for material that reflects "the response of its community of staff and students to the present situation, as people adjust to new patterns of work, socialisation, and leisure".

3:52pm Toope's email today also announced the launch of Qwell, a new online "counselling and wellbeing platform" launched by MIND. 

The platform offers free "chat based counselling" to adults in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and is available to University and College staff and students resident in Cambridge. 

3:46pm The University Council has approved a 'Contract Extension' scheme to extend contracts and assignments due to end between 16th March and 31st July until 31st July 2020. 

They will be extended "on the same terms as existing arrangements", and alternative work will be looked for for those who cannot continue their existing work. 

If this is not possible, Toope announced in an email today that "individuals will be offered a payment, which for most people will be equivalent to their usual monthly salary, until the end of July". 

The scheme will be reviewed at the end of June. 

4:43pm 

Cambridge Police are reporting that both people and animals are respecting social distancing at Grantchester Meadows, despite the sunny weather.

Sunday 5th April - 3:11pm

Having been slow to give definitive advice to students on their Years Abroad, the MMLL Faculty informed students in an email on Friday that the University now "requires you to return home if you are able to and if it is safe for you to do so."

This is a marked strengthening of previous advice, issued as late as the 31st March, asking for a "pragmatic response", and to take the the University's advice to "come home if they are able to do so" as "advisory not compulsory".

MMLL students told they will get no pastoral, medical, or return advice by Year Abroad Office

Undergraduate language students on their year abroad have been informed that though coronavirus-related disruption will have no impact on their progression to final year, some may face their Erasmus+ Grants being recalled while all are being told to handle returning to the UK on their own.

In an email sent to Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics (MMLL) students on Friday, Cambridge’s Faculty Year Abroad Director Tim Chesters informed students that “regrettably”, the Faculty’s Year Abroad Office cannot serve as a “source of advice” for students’ return to the UK, which he argues “will depend on a variety of factors, all of which will need to be considered by any adult UK citizen currently abroad”.

Chesters also told students the Office will not be able to act as a source of information for medical advice or regional variations on measures to tackle the coronavirus, nor will they be able to give pastoral support, and suggested instead that students consult Public Health England, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and their Director of Studies or Tutor, respectively.

Read in full here.

4:57pm 

The Cambridge Independent has reported that 30 new ventilators have been delivered to Addenbrooke's Hospital in the last week, bringing the total to around 100. 

They also report that seven patients have now sadly died at Addenbrooke’s after testing positive for Covid-19.

However on a positive note, Roland Sinker, chief executive of Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said, “There is good news in that five patients have left critical care for ongoing rehabilitation on a ward and over 50 patients have been discharged home.”

Saturday 4 April - 4:54pm 

Cambridge Central Mosque have launched a new volunteer service to provide support in the community. This includes picking up prescriptions and delivering shopping, a "phone buddy system" and "spiritual and moral support".

Cambridge academics’ COVID-19 test set to be used at Addenbrooke’s
Victor Jack

9:25pm 

Cambridge academics are leading the development and evaluation of a new diagnostic test for COVID-19 which can detect infection in under 90 minutes - and are set to be rolled out at Cambridge hospitals imminently.

Associate Professor in the Department of Haematology Dr Helen Lee, who is also CEO of the Cambridge spinout company Diagnostics for the Real World, led the development of the test. Professor Ravi Gupta from Cambridge’s Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease headed the ‘COVIDx’ clinical study evaluating the impact of the test.

The first ten of the 100 of the new ‘SAMBA II’ machines, which administer the test and will soon all be launched nationwide, have been donated to Addenbrooke’s. Healthcare workers will be able use the tests on themselves, and to quickly refer patients who test positive to relevant wards.

Read in full here.

8:28pm 

King's College has been lit up blue this evening as part of the nationwide Clap for Carers initiative to recognise key workers who continue to work during the pandemic.

7:24pm 

Bould Brothers, a coffee shop popular with students in Cambridge, has launched a crowdfunder to help support their business and employees (at a "particularly vulnerable time" as they recently opened another branch on Regent Street).

They have so far raised £16,414 out of a target of £20,000. Customers are being asked to buy a voucher that they can spend at the cafe once it has re-opened.

Graham Virgo: Transcripts to ‘make clear’ this was ‘the COVID examination period’

Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education Professor Graham Virgo has clarified that the safety net policy will not apply to integrated Master’s students and those who obtained a Degree Deserving of Honours (DDH) in second year. But in all cases, he emphasises, transcripts will “make it clear the extraordinary circumstances in which exams were taken”.

After long-awaited details about assessments were released on Tuesday, Varsity sat down with Virgo to clarify these arrangements and voice student concerns including those surrounding DDH and integrated Master’s students, grades, Medical and Veterinary exams, faculty discrepancies, and postgraduate students.

Many issues, he urges, are still very much up in the air and under consideration. Despite this, he hopes to let integrated Master’s students know by tomorrow of assessment-related details, urges consultations with the Disabilities Resources Centre are ongoing for supporting disabled students - and stresses that postponed exams may not be held at all if Michaelmas term does not take place.

Read in full here.

6:08pm 

A heartwarming message of support for NHS workers has been chalked onto the pavement alongside the busway in Cambridge.

This route is commonly used by workers on their way to Addenbrookes Hospital and the message was retweeted by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. 

6:00pm 

Following on from last week's nationwide applause in support of NHS staff, people across the UK are being encouraged to get involved tonight at 8pm as the show of solidarity becomes a weekly event.

5:37pm 

Over 100 HSPS Part I students have signed an open letter addressed to the HSPS Tripos Management Committee to express their dissatisfaction with the chosen method of alternative assessment, the details of which were released to students yesterday.

The letter argues that the modifications made to the exams do not adequately reflect the additional burdens placed on students as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The current alternative method of assessment would see HSPS Part I sitting 4 examinations which they would need to complete within a 5 hour window.The letter also states that this choice of method disadvantages disabled students who may need rest breaks and international students because of different time zones.The letter proposes an alternative form of assessment such as supervision or extended essays.

3:55pm

The Geography department have informed students that they will be moving to online assessments, with "an open window of 24 hours, during which you will download, write and upload your answer."

However students have been advised to only spend a similar amount of time working on these questions as they would normally in an exam. 

First and second year students were informed that they would be given written feedback and an "informal indicative percentage mark" for their work, but these "these marks will not appear on your University transcript".

This decision comes as some students in other subjects are complaining that their marks will appear on their transcripts.

3:50pm 

Exam arrangements for the HSPS tripos have been made in consultation with the Faculty and all departments involved, and students have been notified by their respective departments. 

Arrangements for finalists are released by respective Departments, while all first and second year students of the Tripos are offered optional open-book exams to be conducted through Moodle, where students will be allowed a 5-hour window to complete the exam.

The Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) have cancelled the exam for paper POL9 for finalists, as well as offering open-book exams for the remaining papers, with a word limit of 4500 per paper and a 5-hour window to complete each exam. Extension for dissertation and coursework deadlines are likely. 

The Department of Social Anthropology has announced that finalists will be taking three, instead of four exams through online take-home format. Students can choose any one paper or their dissertation to drop for the new exam requirement. 

In a similar vein, Politics-Sociology and Social Anthropology-Politics joint track students will be taking three papers through online open-book exams. Students are allowed to drop any paper they have taken or their dissertation.

Varsity has not managed to obtain information on the Department of Sociology’s arrangements in detail by the time of publishing.

It has been mentioned in emails to HSPS Part IIB students Varsity has seen that finalists have the option to apply for ‘deemed to deserve honours’ (DDH) through their colleges, or intermit and return for exams in 2021.

3:26pm 

In his email to students today Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope announced the sad news that Professor Michael Wakelam, director of the Babraham Institute, has died following a suspected coronavirus infection.

According to the Cambridge Independent, Professor Wakelam spent more than 20 years researching cell signalling and communication and was the honorary professor of lipid signalling in the Cambridge University Clinical School, an honorary professor at the University of Birmingham and a visiting professor at King’s College London.

Vice-Chancellor Toope said the University's "thoughts are with [Wakelam's] family, his friends and his colleagues". The Babraham Institute, a world-leading centre for biological research, said it was “extremely saddened”.

Thursday 2nd April - 2:46pm

A Cambridge University spinout company, Diagnostics for the Real World, has developed a rapid diagnostic test which is capable of detecting Covid-19 infection within 90 minutes.

The test uses a nasal and throat swab taken from patients which is then loaded into a SAMBA II machines, developed by Diagnostics for the Real World. Once loaded into the machine, the test is automated so does not require time-consuming analysis in a laboratory.

The test has gained the CE mark, signalling that it conforms to health and safety standards, after correctly identifying 100% of negative cases and 98.7% of positive cases in a sample of 102 patients. 

Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope is said that "the machines will be made available to a number of hospitals across the country thanks to a very generous philanthropic donation." 

A donation equivalent to around £2.4 million was contributed by Sir Chris Hohn, a businessman and philanthropist. Hohn’s donation will enable the purchase of 100 machines, the first 10 of which will be used this week in Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

Hohn described the rapidity of this test as "a game changer", as current testing measures can take at least 24 hours to deliver results.

9:42pm

An open letter has been signed by over 450 students and eight JCRs following yesterday's announcement that first and second year students studying Medicine or Veterinary Sciences will not have exams in Easter but instead sit their exams in September.

The letter calls for the Faculty of Biology to "cancel September examinations completely, and replace them with formative assessment in the Easter term, with students passing 2nd MB by default."

It argues that the "Faculty’s position is unique, both compared to other faculties within Cambridge as well as other medical schools around the country.

"Many medical schools (Cardiff, Newcastle, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Southampton, Keele, Lancaster) have opted to cancel exams completely for first and second year students, with only formative assessments in place. Imperial, UCL and Leeds have opted for open book assessments.

"The GMC has also advised students on its website that “your medical school may need to cancel some of your teaching and assessments”, indicating cancellation is to be expected in these extraordinary times.

"What is the rationale for the Faculty to have such a different approach to examination in a time of national crisis?"

As it happened: March 2020 as Cambridge reacted to coronavirus outbreak

You can look back at our March liveblog here, including announcements from the University regarding exams.

Wednesday 1st April - 9.00am 

Welcome to our April live blog, bringing you all the updates on Cambridge's reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the following information and support is available:

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